by Terry Long
A few years back, Richard and I had the amazing privilege of meeting and spending an afternoon with Eddie and Alice Smith. They are an incredible modern day resource on prayer and intercession and they also head up the US. Prayer Center. Alice’s article below is excellent. Please take the time to read it. I know you will be encouraged. Find out more about the Smith’s here.
“Have you experienced times—or even extended seasons—when your prayer life seemed more like the Sahara desert than the life-giving oasis it should be? When that happens, the problem isn’t on the Father’s end of the line, it’s on yours.
Many people of prayer act as though they can’t proceed in daily living until they get a ‘word from God.’ They have heard others talk about the Lord speaking to them to the point that they think they should hear from God continually. But God is not a chatterbox.
Novice Christians who claim they are hearing from God on a daily basis are usually known for their much talking, not for their effectiveness in the Kingdom. Resist the temptation to push the Lord in prayer, demanding that He come to you on your terms.
If you will walk according to the truth of God’s Word, He will surprise you with profound, life-changing words that will extend His kingdom through your life. But He won’t do so if you keep pressing Him to speak. You may get “words,” but they won’t necessarily be from the Lord. (The enemy is often anxious to speak words to those who lack spiritual discernment. ) God wants you to be faithful in the mundane things of life—He wants you to pesevere—so that when the extraordinary happens you will have enough character to bear it without pride.
Ever notice how a practiced long-distance runner knows when to pace himself and when it’s time to dig in and push? Runners call this perceived exertion. To perceive something is to be aware of it by the senses. To exert is to push ahead in an extraordinary way. So at that inevitable point in the critical race, when the runner feels exhausted, in pain, and feels tempted to quit, he or she has been trained to exert an explosive effort to push beyond those thoughts or feelings. The endorphins kick in, stimulating the body, and the runner wins the race!
This is exactly what we need to do in the seemingly dry seasons of prayer. When you pray, sometimes you suddenly “hit the wall,” and distractions, fatigue and sleepiness come over you. You feel weighed down, unfocused and out of it. That’s when the trained and disciplined intercessor applies perceived exertion. He or she begins to exert extra effort—pacing the floor, praying aloud, playing praise and worship music, praying in your prayer language, reading Scripture aloud, or pressing in with added emotion.
There are also times when the Lord removes His manifested presence so that you will exert yourself to run after Him. Struggle can be very good if you don’t give up. But don’t push for an expected response from Jesus. You are running in prayer for the sheer faithfulness of it. The benefits may come later.
Runners win races by pushing the boundaries and stressing their muscles; the exertion builds up and tones their bodies. In a similar way, an intercessor’s spiritual muscles are strengthened when he or she runs hard after the Lord. This ebb and flow of seeking and finding the Lord allows us to stay tender, compassionate and sympathetic to others who find prayer difficult. But be forewarned: When you try too hard, without setting a pace and faithfully running it, your flesh will take over and perform whether the Lord is present or not. You can easily perform ministry—you can pray or conduct any church activity—apart from the Holy Spirit. So be careful that you guard your heart from this happening.
Not every prayer time is a blazing success. There are times when the Lord simply won’t let you catch Him because He will never allow you to take Him for granted. After all, if Jesus allowed you to win every time, then He would be predictable, and in your boredom you would discontinue the pursuit.
I am talking about more than emotions here. Certainly you should begin in prayer by using your emotions, but then you shift into a spirit-to-Spirit engagement with the Almighty! Just as trained runners run with ease—their movements almost effortless—so life-giving intercessory prayer comes from the depth of your spirit. You enter His Holy of holies and invite Him into yours!
Your relationship with God is to be a delightful adventure! A colorful phrase from the Song of Solomon reveals the kind of delight that should be a hallmark of our pursuit of the Lord: “Come away quickly, my beloved. Run like a gazelle or a young stag on the mountains of spices” (8:14). Don’t be anxious or afraid; run to Jesus with love words today. Your heavenly lover delights in the chase!”